Longevity Sword 1 Print
Friday, 04 July 2008 04:39

Chapter 1: Wind & Cloud Inn

*Wind & Cloud (Feng Yun) implies an unstable or stormy situation

A city of white jade in the sky,
Has five towers and twelve castles,
Where a divine being touched the top of my head,
Making the hair grow long and my life with it.

~ Li Bai*
[Famous Tang dynasty poet. This poem originally appears at the start of the story, but since the first translation did not include it, I'm giving it here as a reference.]

1

Dusk.

Upon the stone plated road, nine eccentric looking people appear, all wearing yellow hemp tunics, hemp shoes, and large bowl-sized golden earrings stringed on their left earlobe. They all have a head full of untidy red hair that spreads across their shoulders like flames.

Among the nine, there are tall, short, old, young; each with a different countenance, but they all have the same dead facial expression. They walk, without moving their shoulders or bending their knees, like zombies.

They slowly march through the long street, silencing everywhere they pass. Even the children suddenly stop crying because they are too scared.

At the end of the street, four giant lanterns sat atop a ten-meter flagpole.

Bright red lanterns, lacquer black words!

Written “Wind & Cloud Inn”.

The nine red-haired strange people walk to doorstep of the inn and stop. The first person takes off his golden earring and waves his hand. THUMP! The large earring strikes upon the stone wall besides the lacquer black gate.

Sparks flash as the earring wedges into the stone. The second person lifts a bundle of read hair from his shoulder and gently slices his left hand, as if it were a knife, through the hair.

The second person ties the locket of hair he had just cut to the golden earring upon the wall. The nine continue to walk forward.

The strands of red hairs wave in the wind as if they are flames, but the nine people have already disappeared into the boundless darkness.

Just at this moment, eight sturdy steeds came galloping from the darkness. The sounds of hooves thunders upon the stoned street as if they were rain knocking on the window or thunderous drums beating in battle.

All the riders wear green cloth robes, white cloths wrapped around their head, pointed shoes, and puttees around their lower leg. Every single one of them appeared bold and nimbly skilled.

As the eight horses fly pass “Inn of the Moment,” the eight riders all wave a hand at the same exact moment.

The sabers flash like lightning and another THUMP thudded. Suddenly, there are now eight glistening steel sabers stuck on the thick flagpole.

The sabers’ handles still vibrate as the red silk pieces at the handle butts puff and roll along.

The eight horses vanish.

++++++++++++++++++++++

Darkness thickens. The sound of hooves suddenly reappears in the street, seemingly more intense than the horde that had just passed.

But, there is only one horse.

A purely white horse without a single strand of mixed hair from head to toe arrives at the doorstep. With an unexpected neighing sound, the rider straightens up.

Now we can see clearly that the rider is a burly shirtless man with a curly beard. His black muscles seemed to be made of steel.

The husky man pulls the reins and sees the golden ring and red hair by the door and the eight sabers on the flagpole. With a smirk, he jumps off the saddle and his left and right hand, each grabs a leg of the his horse.

With a thundering howl, the man raises his horse up in the air and places it atop the door eave.

Another neigh sounds. Its manes dance in the air, but its four hooves, without a single movement, seem to be nailed to the eave.

The bearded man throws back his head with a sound of laughter and strides away. In a twinkle, he is gone, but the white horse is left deserted, standing under dark clouds and west winds, leaving an eerie feeling in the air.

++++++++++++++++++++++

The long street is desolate, for all the households have closed their doors.

“Wind & Cloud Inn” is also uninhabited. When customers saw the gold earring and eight sabers, they slipped away through the back door.

But, the white horse still stands not moving, as if it were a stone statue, in the face of the west wind.

Suddenly, a middle-aged thin-faced scholar wearing a blue robe and white socks slowly walks in a very leisure mood, but his pair of pupils shines with glory.

He folds his hands behind his back, walks slowly towards the inn, raises his chin to take a look, and sighs, “Excellent horse! Indeed an excellent horse, but pity the owner is heartless and wronged you.”

He suddenly waves an arm from behind his back, flying his long sleeves, sweeping a wave of strong wind.

The white horse is frightened and neighs again, as it leaps down from the door eave.

The middle-aged scholar supports the horse stomach with both his hands and places it lightly on the ground. He pats its rear and says, “Go back to tell you owner to come. Just say there is a good friend waiting for him.”

As if it understood the man’s intentions, the white horse instantly kicks its hooves and gallops away.

Middle-aged scholar pulls down the golden ring on the door side, then walks into the inn and taps the flagpole.

Eight steel sabers all fall down at the same moment.

The scholar sweeps his sleeve again and wraps the eight sabers within his sleeve. He then asks solemnly, “Where is the flag?”

A thin small shadow suddenly sweeps from within the inn, climbs atop the flagpole like an ape, and within seconds, reaches the top.

A large flag all of a sudden rolls out from the pole tip.

Upon the snow white flag is rampant jet-Green Dragon, looking as if it will burst pass the clouds and fly away any moment!


2.

Night.

There are no stars or moon, with dark clouds and intense winds.

But in the garden, the lights are brightly lit and the table is presented with wine.

The middle-aged scholar murmurs to himself slowly while drinking. Suddenly, he raises his cup towards the a large banyan tree outside the garden and smiles, “I’ve heard that Clan Leader Miao has the quality of rivers and oceans. Since you’re already here, why not come and have a drink?”

From the think shady banyan leaves rises an owl-like strange laughter. A shadow flies like an arrow and lands on the ground lightly as if it were a four ounce cotton.

The man has a pug nose, wide mouth, a head full of red hair, and wears three golden earrings upon his ears. Even when he has already reached the ground, his earrings still jingle. He is the Red Hair Clan Leader, “Flame God”, Miao Shao-Tian.
* Miao Shao-Tian: Miao=Surname, but also imply “tongue of fire”; Shao=Burn; Tian=Sky

His pair of eyes, as if they too have flames burning within, glares at the middle-aged scholar, and said heavily, “Is your excellency Sub-Clan Leader Gong-Sun of the Green Dragon Clan?”

The scholar stands and bows with his fists in front of his chest and replies, “Yes, it is I, Gong-Sun Jing.”
* Gong-Sun Jing: Gong-Sun=Surname; Jing=quite, still, calm

Miao Shao-Tian’s owl-like laughter roars again, “Indeed worthy of being a top figure in the Green Dragon Clan, such a keen pair of eyes.”

Suddenly, there is the sound of horse hooves, thick as rapid successions of heavy rain, galloping towards them.

Miao Shao-Tian’s pair of think flaming eyebrows wrinkled as he said, “Little Zhang has arrived, too. Not at all slow.”

The hooves sound abruptly stops; a clear voice laughs, “Green Dragon’s important date, who on earth is bold enough to be late?”

While the clear voice laughs, a person had already jumped over the wall to within. The man wears a study suit, purposely opened at the chest to show off his muscular pectorals that are even whiter than his suit.

Miao Shao-Tian gives a thumb up and snorted, “What a fine ‘White Horse’ Little Zhang San. Haven’t seen you for a few years, but you seem to have grown younger and more handsome? If Old Miao had a daughter, I’d definitely pick you as a son-in-law.”
* Zhang San: Zhang=Surname; San=three

“Even if you had a daughter, no one is daring enough to want her,” lightly replies White Horse Zhang San.

“Why?” Miao Shao-Tian stares at him.

“With your kind of face, your daughter cannot be any better.”

Miao Shao-Tian stares at him, stares for a while until he finally replies, “We’ve come here today to do business, don’t be impatient to start a fight.”

“How about drinking wine?” asks White Horse Zhang San .

“Then the more impatient, the better. Come, let’s toast three cups to Sub-Clan Leader Gong-Sun first.”

Gong-Sun Jing chuckled, “I have a weak wine capacity, how about let me first toast a cup for you three?”

Miao Shao-Tian folded his eyebrows, “Three?”

Only to hear a person chuckle from the ridge of a neighboring roof, “East-River Red Hair and West-River White Horse have already arrived, how could I be bold enough to be late?”

Miao Shao-Tian asks “Zhao Yi-Dao of Tai-Xing?”
* Zhao Yi-Dao: Zhao=Surname; Yi=one; Dao=saber

But, he doesn’t need to wait for an answer.

He has already seen the bright saber, sharp saber!

There is no scabbard.

The bright saber is inserted directly in the strap of his red belt.

A green cloth robe, white head wrap, and a belt redder than Miao Shao-Tian’s hair, match perfectly with his saber’s cloth.

Gong-Sun Jing’s eyes were sharp like the saber, slicing across the man’s face, “Green Dragon Clan passed out twelve invitations, but only three of you arrived tonight. Are the other nine no longer coming?”

“Nice, very directly asked,” says Zhao Yi-Dao.

“The three of you have come from thousands of miles away, of course you’ve not come to listen to nonsense,” Gong-Sun Jing says.

“Indeed not.”

Miao Shao-Tian hideously grinned, “Of the rest of the nine guests, at least three will not be showing up.”

Zhao Yi-Dao corrects, “Six.”

“the Bamboo Clan, Steel Ring Sect, and Li Family of Tai-Yuan were all my doing,” says Miao Shao-Tian.

Zhao Yi-Dao adds, “Our three friends from Twelve Chained Chickens, Yangtze Waterways, and Yen Family Fists of Chen-Zhou, suddenly felt headaches when they were halfway here, so…”

“So…what?”

“Now, their heads don’t hurt anymore,” Zhao Yi-Dao answers.

“Who cured them?”

“Me.”

“How?”

Zhao Yi-Dao replies, “I sliced their heads off.”

He then adds slowly, “No matter whose head is cut off, they will have no more headaches.”
Miao Shao-Tian laughs, “Good method, very straight forward.”

White Horse Zhang San abruptly declares, “I’m afraid the two elders from Thousand Bamboo Village and Flying Fish Temple will not be coming.”

“Oh?”

“They are sleeping, and in very deep sleep.”

“Where are they sleeping?”

“Bottom of Dong-Ting Lake.”

Miao Shao-Tian chuckles, “Clever. It’s not just a cooling area, but will never be disturbed.”

White Horse Zhang San calmly replies, “I have always given great care to the elders of Wulin.”

Zhao Yi-Dao says, “Those that should be here, should have already arrived, but where is Green Dragon Clan’s good?”

“Nice, directly asked,” replies Gong-Sun Jing.

“Sub-Leader has invited us here not to listen to nonsense either, I assume.”

Gong-Sun Jing nodded, “Indeed not.”

Zhao Yi-Dao asks, “Would you first like to hear my price?”

“Not now.”

“What are we still waiting for?” asks Zhao Yi-Dao.

“The good did not come to us easily; the more people willing to auction, the better the price will be.”

Miao Shao-Tian stares, “You are still waiting for someone?”

“Don’t forget, I’ve invited nine more guests here, but you all have only finished off eight.”

“Who’s the one that’s left?”

“A person who neither has a headache or sleeps.”

“Honestly, this good is definitely going to us Red Hair Clan, so it doesn’t matter if there is someone else coming or not,” sneers Miao Shao-Tian.

White Horse Zhang San scoffs coldly, “Green Dragon Clan is generally fair in business deals. As long as your price offer is the highest, the good will go naturally to Red Hair Clan.”

Miao Shao-Tian says sternly, “Unless you want to compete with my price?”

“Why else would I come?”

Miao Shao-Tian rapidly stands up, staring at him. The golden earrings on his ears still jingled.

A sudden sound of a rattling and neighing reverberates a magnificent carriage, pulled by six horses, stops outside.

Four burly chest-puffing men strides the shaft of the cart, leaps off, and bends over to pull open the door.

After a long time, a beardless and obese pale man steps out of the carriage, panting. Having not even taken three steps, he is already tired and gasping for air like a bull.

Behind him is a tall and thin man dressed in black, following him like a shadow. He has a toasty tanned face and two eyes that sank in, as if he were a sickly ghost. But, his footsteps are extremely light and a shiny objects hang from his waist. At a closer look, the objects are a pair of solitary shaped swords.

 These types of weapons are not only hard to practice, but also hard to make. People who use this type weapon are very rare, but those who do use this weapon, nine out of ten are experts.

Miao Shao-Tian, Zhao Yi-Dao, and White Horse Zhang San, three pairs of eyes, all immediately focuses on this pair of solitary swords.

White Horse Zhang San frowned as asked quietly, “Who is he?”

Gong-Sun Jing replies, “Young Master Zhu from Million Gold Hall of Suzhou.”

“And his bodyguard?”

Gong-Sun Jing smiles, “I’m afraid he’s only a bodyguard.”

White Horse Zhang San goes silent, but he then suddenly turned to Zhao Yi-Dao, “Didn’t he come from your way?”

“I think so,” replies Zhao Yi-Dao.

“How come he doesn’t have a headache?”

“Even if he did, I can’t cure it.”

“Why?”

“His head is too big,” says Zhao Yi-Dao lightly.

++++++++++++++++++++++

Young Master Zhu has already sat down, but he still constantly wipes his sweat and pants.

He had only walked a grand total of at most twenty or thirty steps, but looks as if he had just climbed seven or eight mountains.

The man in black still stuck behind him like a shadow, never more than an inch from his side, his pair of claw-like bony hands never able to leave the pair of rare weapons hanging from his waist.

Within his deep sunken in eyes contains a strange jeering spirit, as if mocking those who stand before his eyes, asking them why they have wasted their time in coming here.

The lanterns of Wing & Cloud Inn sway in the wind; just as Miao Shao Tian’s golden earrings jingle.

White Horse Zhang San feels a chill, and gently pulled his clothes over his bare chest, narrowing the gap of uncovered skin.

However, Zhao Yi-Dao looks contemplatively at the wine cup atop the table, as if deciding upon a harsh dilemma.

No one speaks because there is much hostility between the people present.

Gong Sun Jing is obviously enjoying their air of animosity. He slowly sighs and smiles, “The four of you do not know each other, but surely have heard of each other’s names. Therefore, you won’t need me to introduce yourselves.”

“Indeed not,” says Miao Shao-Tian.

“We didn’t come here with the purpose of making friends,” adds White Horse Zhang San.

“Even if we were originally friends, for this object, we won’t be anymore.” Miao Shao-Tian rolls his eyes sideways to look at him.
 
White Horse Zhang San scoffs, “Leader Miao has always been a sensible person.”

Miao Shao-Tian also scoffs, “Now that everyone is here, where is the stuff?”

“Of course there is the stuff, but…” says Gong-Sun Jing.

“But…what?”

“The Green Dragon Clan always follows the rules exactly while doing business. We stress attention to equal honesty with aged and young customers and money exchange on the spot.”

“Okay!” agreed Miao Shao-Tian.

He clapped his hands, and the nine hemp dressed freaky men suddenly appears from the darkness. Every one of them holds a hemp bag, obviously not of lightweight.

At this moment, there is again the sound of heavy footsteps at the door. The curly bearded man carries a large iron chest above him, walking slowing inside. Blocks of his iron-like black muscles protrude out. Every step he takes, his foot leaves a deep impression in the ground.

“Golden ring surrounds eight walls, white horse neighing in wind, now that I’ve seen, I see that Red Haired Nine Heroes and Giant Hercules have arrived,” smiles Gong-Sun Jing.

“Don’t forget about Eight Blasting Sabers,” adds White Horse Zhang San.

Zhao Yi-Dao finally lifts his head and chuckles, “Red Hair of East-River and White Horse of West-River are both of great wealth and power. How can Fast Sabers of Tai-Xing compete for first? This stuff, us brothers will resign from competition.”

Miao Shao-Tian laughs wildly, “Good, Chief Zhao is a sensible man.”

His laughter suddenly stops, his fire-like vision nailed at Young Master Zhu, “So what is Million Gold Hall’s young master’s intention?”

Young Master Zhu’s heavy breathing has finally stopped and gazes at his hands like a young man looking at his first love.

But, he still replies to Miao Shao-Tian’s question by asking, “You are asking for my meaning?”
 
“Humph!”

“I have no meanings. I’m usually too lazy to think.”

Miao Shao-Tian’s face now shows anger, “No meanings? No gold?”

“I have.”

“How much did you bring?”

“You want to see?”

“Here, they stress attention on hard money exchange on the spot.”

“You’ve already seen it.”

“Where?”

“My words are the gold.”

Miao Shao-Tian’s face turns solemn, “So however much you say, is amount counted?”

“Right.”

“You mean, if I offered one hundred thousand, you would offer one hundred thousand and one?”

“You are indeed a sensible man.”

Miao Shao-Tian’s eyesight suddenly moves toward the pair of solitary shaped swords.

The nine hemp-dressed red haired freaks has already quietly moved themselves to surround Young Master Zhu. But, Young Master Zhu still stares at his pair of hands, as if except for this pair of hands, there is nothing worth looking at.

With a sudden “ding” sound, as if two golden cups striking each other, Miao Shao-Tian’s hand has already clawed toward the pair of solitary swords.

His movement is both swift and accurate.

He never would have thought that another pair of hands is faster than his—a pair of fat and well maintained hands.

His hands has not yet reached the pair of solitary swords, but this pair of hands suddenly took the golden earrings off his ear.

The golden earrings clashed against themselves, and another “ding” sounded.

Miao Shao-Tian turns his body over high in the air and retreats six meters.

The man in black still sticks behind Young Master Zhu like a shadow, not moving.

Young Master Zhu still gazes at his pair of hands, only this time, astonishingly, they hold an extra pair golden rings.

++++++++++++++++++++++

White Horse Zhang San’s facial expression changed, too.

Zhao Yi-Dao looks at the wine cup in front of him and suddenly sighs, “Now you understand what I mean?”

“What meaning?”

“Even if he had a headache, I can’t cure it.”

White Horse Zhang San couldn’t help but also sigh, “Yes, his head is truly too large.”

++++++++++++++++++++++

Gong-Sun Jing, showing a slight smile, says slowly, “Since everyone has brought their money, we shall go see the stuff.”

“Right, it’s best to see the stuff first. Perhaps I might not even be willing to offer a price,” says Young Master Zhu leisurely.

He puts the golden rings in the hands atop the table, takes out a snow-white silk cloth to carefully wipe his hands, and finally rises up, “please, please show the way.”

++++++++++++++++++++++

“Please, please follow me,” says Gong-Sun Jing.

He is the first to walk toward the inn, followed behind by Young Master Zhu slowly, as if about to pant again.

The man in black still follows, no more than one step away, Young Master Zhu. Now, White Horse Zhang San understands why his eyes contained such jeering spirit.

He isn’t scorning the people around him, but instead, himself.

Because only he understands that the person he is protecting, simply does not need his protection.


3.

Miao Shao-Tian walks at the end, tightly gripping his pair of golden rings, with the blue veins on the back of his hand popping out.

He wasn’t suppose to come, but he must come.

The stuff seems as if it has a strange magnet, sucking him towards it step by step.

Not until the last moment, he will not give up any chances.

The stone stairs had originally faced upward, but now they suddenly sink downwards, revealing a shady tunnel.

At the entrance of the tunnel, there stand two statue-like men. For every ten steps afterward, there also stand two men, alike the first two. Their faces sullen like the green stoned walls.

On the stonewall, there is a carved rampant green dragon.

It has been rumored that the Green Dragon Clan has three hundred sixty-five secret alters. This place is no doubt one of them.

At the end of the passage, there are a couple very thick iron bars.

Gong-Sun Jing takes out a large chain of keys from his belt and used three of the keys to Zhang San locks. Only then, did the two guards behind the bars pull open the door.

But this is still not the last door.

Gong-Sun Jing gently smiled, “I know many people are able to come here; the security here is not the most difficult to pass. But, to move forward from here on is an arduous task.”

“Why?” asks Young Master Zhu.

“Between here and the stone door over there, there are a total of thirty hidden triggers. I can guarantee that there are no more than seven people in this world that can pass all thirty of them.”

Young Master Zhu sighs, “Luckily, I’m definitely not one of these seven people.”

“Why don’t you give it a try?” says [/I]Gong-Sun Jing[/I] in a even more amiable manner.

“Perhaps I’ll try sometime in the future, but as of the present, I won’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m still very happy with living right now.”

++++++++++++++++++++

The distance from the iron bars to the stone door is not very far, but after hearing Gong-Sun Jing’s words, the stone door seems to be ten times farther away.

The stone door is very heavy.

Gong-Sun Jing, again, used three keys to open the locks on the door.

Behind the two feet thick door, lays a stone cell that is nine feet wide.

Inside the room seems ghastly and frosty, as if inside the heart of the tomb of an ancient king.

Where the coffin is supposed to lie, lays instead a giant iron trunk.

To open this trunk, requires at least three more keys.

But, these three keys were not the last three, for inside the giant trunk was another, smaller iron chest.

Young Master Zhu sighed again, “Just judging by this unbeatable security, we should offer higher prices.”

“Young Master Zhu is indeed a sensible man,” grins Gong-Sun Jing.

He raises the small chest out and opens it.

His amiable smile suddenly disappears, his expression seems as if someone had stuffed a rotten persimmon in his mouth.

++++++++++++++++++

Inside the small iron chest is empty, save a single piece of paper.

On the paper is written, “Thank you, you are truly a kind man.”

4.

The stone room was ghastly and frosty, but Gong-Sun Jing actually starts to sweat. Drops as large as soybeans drip down his pale face.

Young Master Zhu looks at him, his eyes as gentle as when he was looking at his own hands, and tenderly says, “You must know.”

“Know…know what?”

“Know who is thanking you.”

Gong-Sun Jing clenches his fists and suddenly turns and dashes outward.

Young Master Zhu sighs and murmurs, “Looks like he really is a kind man. Too bad they say that kind people don’t live long…”

++++++++++++++++++++

“Suppose there really is only seven people who can pass the thirty triggers, which seven are they?”

“There is one that definitely does not have any problem. No matter how you count them, he must be one of the seven.”

“Who is it?”

“Bai Yu-Jing!”
Last Updated ( Monday, 07 July 2008 11:17 )